Back in August, when the Brazilian government offered to protect him against possible legal action by the US, Greenwald seemed much more optimistic about his chances of returning unmolested. Salon was reporting Greenwald "has no intention of taking the Brazilian government up on the offer," and that he intended to return to the US "sooner [rather than] later, come what may." He told Salon:
"I haven't requested any protection from the Brazilian government or any other government because, rather obviously, I've committed no crime -- unless investigative journalism is now a felony in the U.S."
Today, however, it is much clearer that investigative journalism is indeed a felony in this country, and that an administration obsessed with secrecy -- and deeply embarrassed by the exposure of their spying to the world -- is bound and determined to stop him from reporting on the Snowden leaks. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports:
"Glenn Greenwald would like to go home to the United States, at least for a visit. But the Guardian journalist and blogger is afraid to do so. He still has material and unpublished stories from his contacts with fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden that he believes US authorities would love to get their hands on. The nine-hour detention and interrogation of Greenwald's Brazilian partner David Miranda by British security services at London's Heathrow airport in August has only compounded his fears."
Greenwald told the CPJ:
"I have been told by pretty much everybody I have asked, including lawyers for the Guardian , my personal lawyer, lawyers I trust, political people who are well connected that it would be very ill-advised for me to travel back to the United States right now because the chances that I would be arrested are something more than trivial. I've had lots of prominent political and media figures calling for my arrest and prosecution and strongly suggesting, if not outright stating, that what I am doing is criminal."
Greenwald recently left his position at the U.K. Guardian to join an online media startup with fellow journalists Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras, and entrepreneur-philanthropist Pierre Omidyar. The venture will doubtless prove to be a major pillar of the new journalistic architecture fast displacing the legacy media -- but one of its leading voices will not be able to set foot in this country.
This is beyond outrageous. Are we now at the point where fear of the government's political police is forcing everyone who defies them into permanent exile?
We are indeed -- if we let it happen.
Although my acquaintance with Greenwald is casual -- we've emailed over the years and had a few Twitter exchanges -- this has been bothering me over the summer, and the latest reports from the CPJ and the Advocate interview have confirmed my worst fears. Obama's thugs will be waiting for him at the airport if and when he gets on a plane for the US.
That his lawyers are telling him returning poses a considerable risk is a frightening indication of just how far we've traveled down the road to an authoritarian state. He's clearly expressed a desire to return to the United States, and, by God, he has the right to do so, without being stopped, detained, or otherwise harassed.
This case is particularly important because it exists at the nexus of the Snowden revelations, Obama's war on journalism, and the grievous state of civil liberties in this country. We either fight back now, or else let this country slip into the abyss of despotism: we can't afford to let them get away with this.
I urge my readers to call -- and, better, write -- their representatives in Congress, and ask them to speak out in support of Greenwald's right to a safe return. This administration needs to know that there will be political consequences for its lawless disregard for the most basic constitutional guarantees. While Washington is hardly pro-Greenwald territory, our lawmakers are increasing aware of -- and uneasy about -- the public's rising opposition to our emerging police state. The American people want to know how, where, and why their own government is breaching their privacy -- and they aren't about to surrender the First Amendment to an administration that has repeatedly shown its contempt for the Constitution.
Glenn Greenwald is a citizen of these United States: he has committed no crime. Instead, he has exposed the crimes of our political class, and angered them in the process. They are out to get him by any means necessary -- and it is up all liberty-loving Americans to stop them.
Let the cry rise up from the burgeoning civil libertarian movement, which is holding a major rally in Washington this Saturday: Hands off Glenn Greenwald! Let him return to the land of the free and the home of the brave -- so that America can reclaim that title once again.